July 21, 2011
Add bitter gourd as the latest member of the very exclusive club of vegetables that have their own Internet domains.
The Bitter Gourd Project, a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary and multinational collaborative project to improve the incomes and health of the poor in developing countries—particularly the quality of life of diabetics—through scientific research on bitter gourd (Momordica charantia L.), opened a website to provide news and information about this valuable vegetable.
The site can be accessed at: http://www.bitter-gourd.org
The three-year project, led by AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Germany, started in March 2011. Research activities are underway at AVRDC’s Taiwan headquarters and in the Center’s Africa, South Asia, and East and Southeast Asia offices; Avinashilingam Deemed University for Women, Comibatore, India; Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana India; Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany; Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Moshi, Tanzania; and National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.
The website prepared by Jen Wen Luoh, AVRDC Community Nutrition Specialist, serves as a collection and dissemination point for research, project updates, news reports, events, and other items of interest about bitter gourd. The site’s photo gallery offers a closer look at the warty gourd that may hold the promise of better health for diabetics. On the site’s public forum, all interested visitors can engage in discussions about growing and using bitter gourd and share recipes to promote consumption.
Today, 285 million people in the world live with diabetes, and 80% of those are in low- and middle-income countries. By 2030, about 4.5% (more than 370 million) of the world’s population will suffer from Type 2 diabetes. India has the highest number of diabetics, with 31.7 million in 2000 and a projected 79.4 million by 2030. The diabetes epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing in the world, increasing 2.6 fold in 30 years.
There is no cure for diabetes, but the quality of life of people with diabetes depends on effective blood glucose control. Effective treatment includes proper diet, weight control, exercise, and medicine.
Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other traditional folk medicine practices have long used bitter gourd to treat Type 2 diabetes and other ailments. Previous studies with animals and humans suggest bitter gourd (whole fruit, juice, or extract) does have a role in diets for glycemic control of diabetes. However, the antidiabetic effect of bitter gourd results from the complex action of multiple compounds in the fruit. Further studies are required to provide sufficient evidence to confidently recommend bitter gourd for managing Type 2 diabetes.
The nutritionists, plant breeders, medical doctors, and social scientists working on the Bitter Gourd Project hope to optimize the level of antidiabetic compounds in the vegetable through varietal selection and postharvest practices and preparation methods, and then develop evidence-based dietary strategies to assist diabetics in Asia and Africa.